Slang terms for “rural”



Whether used in a positive or demeaning manner, here is a list of slang terms/phrases that are often used to depict a place as being rural. Please feel free to provide any other terms or phrases that I may have missed or was not aware of.

  • Appalachia
  • Backwater(s)
  • Backwoods
  • Boondocks
  • Boonies
  • Exurbs
  • Green Acres
  • Hicksville
  • Hinterlands
  • Mayberry
  • Middle of nowhere
  • Nowhere
  • Nowheresville
  • Out in the sticks
  • Out in the woods
  • Podunk
  • RFD (Rural Free Delivery – added onto the place name, such as Mayberry, RFD)
  • Sticks
  • ___tucky (fill in the blank portion and add “tucky”)
  • Wastelands
  • Wilds
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Three classic urban basins

View of ridge surrounding Lubango, Angola - Source:

View of ridge surrounding Lubango, Angola – Source:

Below are satellite and photographic images of three classic urban basins (or bowl-shaped valley cities, Katmandu, Nepal; Lubango, Angola; and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. There are a number of cities around the globe that sit in basins surrounded by mountains, including Mexico City, La Paz, Tecate, and Caracas, but few are as symmetrically rounded as these three. Granted, few, if any, natural geographic landforms are uniformly shaped, but these three come about as close as one could imagine to representing a bowl.

Katmandu, Nepal - Source: costarica-link1

Katmandu, Nepal – Source: costrica-link1

Topo map of Katmandu, Nepal - Source:

Topo map of Katmandu, Nepal – Source:

Katmandu and Tegucigalpa are surrounded by higher peaks that Lubango, but this Angolan city is my favorite example of an urban basin. The subtleties of Lubango’s surrounding rim topography (see photo at top of blog post) are such that it really does appear to be a shallow, smooth bowl.  The two other bowls have a rugged rim surrounding them.

For urban planners, a key aspect of basin cities is how pollutants can become trapped in the bowl-shaped valley leading to health and environmental concerns. Current and long-term planning efforts must include methods for mitigating and off-setting current  problems in these areas, while also promoting those land use and transportation  alternatives that enhance community-wide health, as well as environmental stewardship and sustainability.



Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Source:

Topo map of Tegucigalpa, Hondurus - Source:

Topo map of Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Source:

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The road ate my neighborhood!

Absolutely spot-on example of the bass ackwards thinking from old school Traffic Engineers. Sadly, we have a serious overpopulation of them living and working here in Michigan. The video created by Strong Towns would be hilarious if it weren’t so damn true.

Thank you to both Strong Towns and Streetsblog USA for posting this video.


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Searching by bike for truth and reconciliation amid the minefields of Angola



A pretty compelling blog post title, if I do say so myself. It is deliberately so, as the Kindle book I just finished is just that – compelling.

Normally, when one reads a book about bike touring, it is an adventure of discovery about new places, people, and cultures. To a certain extent, Back to Angola, A Journey From War to Peace, was a voyage of discovery too, but with a much darker tone. In this case, author Paul Morris, was searching for truth and reconciliation in Angola 25 years after fighting there as a South African Defence Force (SADF) soldier in the South African Border War. He decided to do this by riding his bicycle to and through areas where his unit had fought a quarter-century prior.



This poignant book travels to and fro in time from his childhood in Cape Town, to the present day bicycle trip across the southern third of Angola, to the terrors of the battlefield, and then back again. It is an eye-opening account that will send shivers down your spine, especially if you have never been subject to an armed attack on the ground or from the air. It also is a cathartic rite of passage for Mr. Morris, as he rediscovers his humanity through meeting the people he once fought against. He also finds that he really likes the people of Angola.

Here are a few brief quotes from Back to Angola:

“I’m back now, in the country that represents my shadow side. A place that signifies the blackest depths to which humankind can plunge: war. It has taken me twenty-five years and five continents of travelling to find my way back here.”

“After what I had experienced in Angola, every day was a bonus.”

“Oh, I like people as individuals, it’s people-plural that I hate.”

“…behind every war story lurks a string of nightmares.”

“Bittersweet. What a name for an army base.”

“I understand how anxiety becomes fear and then escalates into terror.”

“The mines keep fighting like a lost regiment, not knowing that the war is long over.”

“People are resilient. The buzz of life in this village is testament to that.”

“War is confusion. You often don’t know what happened until you’ve read the book.”

“Men with unchallenged and uncontrolled power, I think; bullies of the most dangerous kind.”

I highly recommend this engaging book because it will provide great insights to reader of what the average grunt soldier suffers through at the beck and call (and disposal) of others higher up in the chain of command. It was not like the author had much choice, given the option of two years in the army or many more years caged away in a South African prison.

As the nation of South Africa so clearly demonstrated, you can find truth and reconciliation following many years under the ugly heel of apartheid. Fortunately for Mr. Morris, individual citizens who had nothing to do with oppressive policies could do the same. His excellent book is testament to the strength and rebirth of the human spirit. Cheers!





p.s.  This important book by Paul Morris highlights the dangerous, tedious, and impressive efforts of the Halo Trust to rid the world of the scourge of land mines. It certainly lead me to make a contribution to this very worthy cause. Please consider doing the same.  Thanks!

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Ten planning lessons from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Canada's national Museum of Human Rights (opened September 2014)

Canada’s National Museum of Human Rights (opened September 2014)

The following is another post in an ongoing series which highlights ten important planning lessons from various cities around the world. Below are the ten planning lessons I’ve learned from two visits to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – one in 2005 and the other last month during out trip across Canada. Winnipeg is a very enjoyable city and well worth a visit.

  • You do not have to have a dramatic scenic vistas to create a dynamic and vibrant city.
  • On element of amazing architecture can change first and lasting impressions – in Winnipeg’s instance it’s Canada’s National Museum of Human Rights.
  • Great urban centers can and have blossomed amid very cold and challenging climates.
  • Celebrate your community’s uniqueness and don’t try to become something that you are not.
  • Art is an intriguing amenity to a riverfront trail system.
  • A single well-designed pocket park such as Winnipeg’s Chinese Tea Garden (see below) can literally transform the gray drabness of an inner city into a floral cavalcade of brilliant colors.
  • Railroad travel brings in tourists who in turn bring in dollars to spend at area attractions.
  • A bus rapid transit system can be quite cool.
  • Merging multiple municipalities into one metropolitan jurisdiction can create a single identity and build a brand.
  • A catchy and memorable moniker such as “The Peg” never hurts.
Chinese Garden in Winnipeg

Chinese Garden in Winnipeg


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The “real” snowbirds



Each autumn and winter millions of northerners across North America make the pilgrimage to points south, primarily Florida and Arizona, to escape the snow and cold. Similarly, flocks of birds migrate southward for the winter from their summer nesting grounds.

One species of bird that migrates is particularly hardy. It doesn’t fly south from the Arctic tundra to Florida, the Caribbean, or Latin America. Instead, the Dark-eyed Junco flies from its chilly summer nests to the not-so-balmy winters of Michigan, Ontario, and surrounding regions. Sure, some will travel further south, but it’s the brave ones that hang around here that impress me. Just this week, they arrived here in Mid-Michigan for there six month “retreat” from polar cold.

I find this little birds quite amazing. It’s not like they are blessed with loads of extra fluffy feathers, but they still manage to survive year after year with temperatures rarely rising above “warm” in their summer habitat and more often downright cold.

If you happen to notice small, gray birds on the ground below your feeder, or see their gray and white tail-feathers flitter away as you approach on a trail, smile and remember how the hard Dark-eyed Junco is one of our best gifts from nature each winter. Cheers!

Posted in Animals, Canada, entertainment, environment, fun, geography, nature, North America, Science, Travel, weather, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten planning lessons from Victoria, British Columbia


Provincial capitol

My wife and I had the great pleasure of visiting gorgeous Victoria, British Columbia for five days last month. After some time for reflection, here is my list of ten planning lessons learned from this magnificent city. If there ever were a clear example of a livable city, in North America, Victoria is certainly it.

The planning lessons are presented in no particular order of importance.

  • A city focused on its waterfront and on waterborne transportation (water taxis, ferries, seaplanes, etc.) can be very intoxicating and vibrant.
  • Linking nature and outdoor recreational opportunities such as kayaking and bicycling with the urban environment is a tremendous way to enhance (as well as explore) a city.
  • Swanky food establishments and prototypical chains never reflect the gastronomical heart and soul of a city like its eccentric local hangouts – Red Fish, Blue Fish on Victoria’s Wharf, for example, takes exceptional dining to a whole new level of uniqueness.
  • Cherish/preserve your local history, including natural and built, as well as Native and immigrant.
  • Blending many diverse cultures is an amazing economic development and tourism tool.
  • You don’t need to chop up a city with ugly freeways.
  • Great architecture and urban design always (ALWAYS) trumps utilitarianism.
  • A stratospheric skyline is not necessary to make a city dynamic, cool, exciting, and hip.
  • Even the most scarred terrain (limestone quarries in this case) can be transformed into beautiful amenities with time and tender loving care.
One of many water taxis scurrying about Victoria's harbour

One of many water taxis scurrying about Victoria’s harbour

Red Fish, Blue Fish on Victoria's wharf

Red Fish, Blue Fish on Victoria’s wharf


Harbour scene at dusk

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